Making Friends

5 Videos to Help You Make New Friends

I’ve been making more videos lately than I have been blogging (come join me on my YouTube channel to be notified when a new video goes up!) but here on one page you can see a collection of short videos I did to help inspire you to make the friendships that are crucial to your health and happiness!

xoxo

1) 3 Ways to Meet New Friends

We know we have to meet people before we can potentially become friends, but where exactly are we supposed to go to find new friends? While most common advice makes a list of places, that unfortunately isn’t super helpful to most of us if we don’t go to those places they suggest! Let’s brainstorm the places and ways that will be most helpful to each of us specifically! At the end of this video you will have a personalized list of the best methods for YOU!

2) How Many "Potential Friends" Do I Need to Make a New BFF?

We know we can’t just go out and simply place an order for a new best friend, but that rather we have to go meet a bunch of people first. But how many people do we need to meet? How do we go looking for a new BFF? How many people does it take to find one new friend?

3) How Important is Chemistry to a New Friendship?

Do you wish you knew exactly who you might bond with? Do you think you know who you’ll get along with best and feel like you’re on the look for a very specific person? Do you wonder what actually helps determine who we bond with? Here I lead us through looking at how friendships are developed and what healthy expectations will serve us as we meet new people! At the end of this video you’ll know the one thing we can practice that matters more than chemistry!

4) How Long Does It Take to Make a New Friend?

Do you find yourself wanting to feel close to people right away? Do you wonder whether you should be able to predict instantly whether the two of you will be friends? Do you want to feel close to people but then find yourself not wanting to put in the time? So often what we want is to meet someone with whom we instantly feel close but what we usually find is a stranger that we have to get to know, and it never feels as fun and easy and familiar as we want it to feel. Here I lead us through looking at how friendships are developed and what healthy expectations will serve us as we meet new people. At the end of this video you’ll know how much time it typically takes for you to make new friends!


5) How Can Introverts Make New Friends?

Do you worry that it’s harder for you to make new friends because you’re an introvert? Do you feel anxious when it comes to reaching out to others? Do you hunger for connection but feel weary and exhausted at how to get those needs met? At the end of this video you’ll have all kinds of tips and ideas for how to maximize your friendship time and decrease the energy output as much as possible.

How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friendship?

Do you want to make some new friends this summer?

Yes? Well, you're in the right spot! And you're not alone in that beautiful desire!

Unfortunately most of us just want that to mean "I want to meet my best friend in such a way (hopefully today!) that we both immediately know we're best friends and therefore can start acting like best friends immediately."

But, as I've been saying for a looooong time: we don't just discover a best friend, but rather we develop a best friendship. And no matter how much chemistry we might have with someone... it still takes time to see each other, know each other's stories, and figure out who we are together.

In fact, recent research from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships revealed that it takes approximately 200 hours for a 'best friendship' to develop! 200 hours!!! That means if we grab lunch for 90 minutes with someone that we'd have to schedule 132 more lunches before we felt that close, knew each other that well, and felt like we were tired-and true. That seems a bit high to me... but nonetheless, the point is well made: feeling safe and close to someone takes time. 

So while it's perhaps unrealistic that we can go from meeting someone this summer to being best friends by September... it's certainly do-able to start logging the initial 50 hours of interaction that they found turns an acquaintance into a 'casual friend'. That we can get started on!!!

Like this summer.

I challenge you this month.. while it's still May, to actually write down realistic goals for your friend-making journey this summer. The season of festivals, walks, outdoor dining, and long days is ahead of us-- and it's made better with friends beside us. So start by being both realistic and hopeful as you answer the following questions:

  1. Is my situation that I need to meet more people or that I need to devote more time to some of the people I've already met?
  2. How much time (and where is it? weekends? evenings? at work?) can I devote to friend-making this summer? In other words, how much of a priority is this to me? 
  3. And what's the best use of that time? Where can I meet new people OR who do I need to be reaching out to now to start scheduling time on the calendar?
  4. What will most support me in this journey? What will help me stay motivated? What will hold me accountable? (Want a resource to help? We're starting an 11 week journey together this summer!)

This is our work, GirlFriend. There is hardly anything more important in this lifetime than our relationships. 

And this is our time. While what we ultimately want are close and intimate friendships-- we know that we have to start by simply putting in the time to meet people and get the friendships started. It's not what we like doing, but it's where we have to start. So we will.

This is our summer for making friends! Let's at least get started!

You Answered: The Most Challenging Part of Making New Friends

This post is written by Katrina Emery, a member of GirlFriendCircles.com who lives in Portland, OR.

One of the most popular questions in GirlFriendCircles, that our new members answer is “What specific aspect of making new friends feels the most challenging to you?”

I read through all 750+ answers (I promise, I did!), and am here to report with your answers. Because this friendship thing is hard, we all know that. There are aspects of it that we all struggle with, so while 750 of you out there may have commented about how hard it is to make new friends, you’re not the only ones. Solidarity, sister. We’re here to figure it out together.

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Top 5 Challenges:

#1: Time.

Let’s be honest, this one’s a bit boring. Everyone’s got time constraints, we all know we’re busy, there are a million apps promising to fix that, and none of them do. But we’re all here because we know that friendship is important anyway.

#2: Meeting People Initially.

The hardest part for a lot of you is the simple act of figuring out how to meet someone. You’ve carved out your time, but aren’t sure where to go. Or you’ve figured out where to go, but can’t tell what to say. Many of you also noted how hard it is to break into an established circle of friends. And a lot of you mentioned how hard it is to combat shyness and gather the courage to speak up.

“Just meeting people can be a challenge--and it sometimes seems that everyone already has friend group and isn't really looking for new friends to add.” - D

“The most challenging aspect for me is the initial putting myself out there. “ -T

#3: Moving Deeper.

Lots of commenters said how much they hate small talk, and how difficult it can be to move past an initial meeting into something more meaningful. Shasta would describe it as moving circles, and it’s tough to bump folks up from acquaintances to something better. Even someone who can blaze through the first two challenges might get stopped up here. There were so many thoughtful and poignant comments around this topic, which shows that we all spend a lot of time really thinking about this.

L says, “It’s that invisible wall that seems to stand between friendly chit-chat with other women and becoming actual friends - how does that happen?”

And J put it nicely: “Keeping a momentum of friendship other than “Hey how are you?” back and forth all the time.”

And another L noted, “The actual approach to making new friends is very hard. I've met people who I thought "OK, I could totally see being friends with this person."  However, I never make the transition to friendship because I don't know how.”

#4: Finding the Right Kind of Friend

This was an interesting category to me. A lot of commenters mentioned that they were looking for a certain type of friend--one who fits with their own idea of what they’re looking for, or one that shares all the right interests.

One commenter, A, summed this up nicely: “Finding people I like.”

This makes sense. We all want people we like, who understands where we are in life. Because we’re all going through struggles, and we think that no one can help unless they’re going through that same struggle. Many commenters wrote about how challenging their own situations were, and their barriers to making friends. And here’s what I noticed: they were all different, and often contradictory. Having a demanding job, working a weird schedule, not working at all, working as a stay at home mom, having teenage kids, having kids under 3, being a single mom, being single with no kids, being married with no kids,… everyone mentioned how hard it was for them. Which just goes to show… it’s hard for us all. It really is. We’re all kind of freaked out by it.

So, what if, instead of looking to make friends who are in our same situation, we branch out and open up? Don’t get me wrong-- I know this is crazy hard. And I understand many times it’s a matter of practicality rather than preference. But it might be worth it. Here’s what M. had to say about it:

“[I’m challenged by] making new friends with people who are different from me — like a whole lot different. They have a different culture, different ways of doing things, different dialect...this has been a challenge for me for so many years. I feel like I don't "click"...but this year, I am determined to be more open and welcoming.”

To sum up...

#5: Fear.

Other than time (though, we could make an argument for that), this one sums up all of the above challenges. They’re all about being afraid of being judged, of being not enough, or too much. That’s why I thought #4 was especially tragic. We’re all looking for a specific kind of friend and telling ourselves that those who don’t fit our categories aren’t good enough for us, while being inwardly terrified that we’re not good enough for other people’s categories.

“When opening up to new people I feel vulnerable to judgment from others.” -A

“Being vulnerable and wondering ‘will they like ME?’ “ - S

“Reaching out. Initiating. Suggesting a get-together and having the other person say no or cancel. Rejection in all of its many forms.” -C

“Feeling like I am too much. Being fully accepted. Feeling like I’ll let others down.” -A

First, let’s all take a moment to congratulate ourselves on admitting that stuff. Good job!

Now that we’ve done that, let’s congratulate ourselves on being here, wanting to do something to tackle those challenges. It won’t happen immediately, but the more we reach out, send an invite, risk chatting to a new person, or move past our shyness to be a little vulnerable, the better we’ll get at it.

And while you practice those things, read up on the Friendship University-- it’s loaded with all sorts of tips to tackle these challenges and more, such as:

Making Time for Our Friendships, with author Samantha Ettus

Friend-Making Overwhelm? 5 Strategies for Starting Right Where You Are, with author Sam Bennet

The 3 Requirements for Starting Friendships or How to Make a New BFF with our own Shasta Nelson

How to Connect with Others: The 4 Laws of Authentic Conversation, with author Michelle Tillis Lederman

Because if there’s anything that reading these 750 comments taught me, it’s that these challenges aren’t so unique, after all.

How to Set A Monthly Friendship Goal

I asked the women of GirlFriendCircles.com last week what their friendship and connection goals were for the month of January and their answers were so inspiring that I thought I'd share a few of them with you just in case you want to set an intention, too! 

I've repeatedly found that those of us who are most able to move our desire for meaningful connection into actions we can take tend to feel more empowered, hopeful, and effective. I encourage you to join us and name an intention that you feel will lean you toward the frientimacy you ultimately want!  

Here are tips and examples from our members:

Keep the goal do-able!

  • "Setting the bar nice & easy for January. 1-2-3... 1 in-person, 2-calls, 3 notes." -- Linda
  • "It looks like a busy month for me but I'll call people if I can't meet up and even just a few quick "Hi how are you" texts would be good.  And then once my schedule clears a bit,  I'll plan some meet-ups." -- Katherine

Be specific.

  • "My January goal is to attend 4 social activities where I can make new contacts." -- Jennifer
  • "I am going to schedule two friends dates."-- Dana  
  • "I am going to make plans with at least 2 different people to grab coffee/a meal this month." -- Julianna

Hold a hopeful and open attitude: 

  • "Start saying yes to more things!"  Elizabeth
  • "I will attempt to reach out to potential female friends instead of presuming they aren't looking for new friendships." Jodi
  • "To be willing to share openly and authentically despite fear of attack or rejection." -- Shelly
  • "I am going to be less guarded with the moms of the students I teach." -- Cynthia 
  • "I'm going to remind myself that connection is the opposite of loneliness. Sometimes a conversation on the phone with a friend can improve my whole day! Trying to consciously stay in contact with friends is important to me and a focus point this month." -- Candice

Choose to Take Charge of your Connection

  • "I'm starting a book club! Yesterday I emailed more than a dozen friends from all over my city (I have lots of individual friends I don't see very often) to be a part of it and have already had a bunch say they're in. Now I might have to figure out how to manage if there are too many people." -- Esther
  • "Continue to take initiative to invite people to get together - with current friends, as well as organizing in-person social support groups for a couple of illness groups I'm part of." -- Elizabeth
  • "I can sign up for an art class and go to the sessions to meet women who enjoy creative making, ceramics, and other crafts. I can host a potluck of crafting." -- Sharon  

Value the Long-Term Growth, Skills Training, and Practice!

  • "I started attending Toastmasters as a guest this week. I can work on improving my communication skills." -- Denise
  • "To express more of my friendship needs to my friends." -- Faith 
  • "Keep up with the Year of Frientimacy course and take one action step suggested in the book for January." -- T.

What a list!!  If you haven't yet named your goal-- it's not too late to do so! Name one for yourself!  Share it in the comments or join GirlFriendCircles.com (it's free!) and add it to our growing list! 

Speaking of GFC-- here are a couple things we have going on in our friendship world this month in case any of them would serve you in your goal!

  1. Join GirlFriendCircles.com for FREE to meet women near you and to stay encouraged in your friendships all year long!
  2. Join our "2018: Year of Frientimacy" --a 13 week program where you read Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and evaluate all your relationships and put together a strategic plan for better friendships!
  3. Attend Shasta's New Year's Retreat in Santa Cruz, CA Jan 26-28, 2018
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May we all feel inspired to do one thing this month that we feel will strengthen our friendships!

xoxo

Making Friends When We are Wired to Assume Rejection and Danger

"She doesn't like you..."

"You'll sound stupid if you say that..."

"She's stuck-up, she thinks she's better than you..."

"Why don't people every write me back or respond to my invitations?"

"What if I share something vulnerable and she judges me?"

The negative voices in our heads are relentless.

And they are, unfortunately, a very common, even normal, human experience.

Our "Negativity Bias"

Science consistently shows that we've been wired with a bias toward negativity.  We're much quicker to asses, even expect a threat; than we are to look for opportunities.  It's a matter of survival. If an animal misses an opportunity to eat-- he can find another one; but if he misses a threat of someone trying to eat him-- then that's pretty much a done deal. We are instinctively more worried about our protection than we are about our growth and pleasures. 

These are some great examples from The Happiness Hypothesis:

  • "In marital interactions. it takes at least 5 good or constructive actions to make up for the damage done by one critical or destructive acct.
  • In financial transactions and gambles, the pleasure of gaining a certain amount of money is smaller than the pain of losing the same amount.
  • In evaluating a person's character, people estimate that it would take twenty-five acts of life-saving heroism to make up for one act of murder.
  • When preparing a meal, food is easily contaminated , but difficult to purify.

Jonathan Haidt continues by saying, 

Over and over again, psychologists find that the human mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to equivalent good things. We can’t just will ourselves to see everything as good because our minds are wired to find and react to threats, violations, and setbacks.

How We Can Respond

Since so much of our reaction is hard-wired and instinctive, the goal isn't to never have these thoughts; but rather what we are aiming for is

  1. Greater awareness that this is, in fact, our tendency, 
  2. Better skills at then processing the information that is coming in,
  3. And, then not making decisions out of fear when we aren't actually in danger.

This reminds me of the research I shared in Frientimacy about what researchers discovered about rejection.  We ALL feel it.  No matter how emotionally healthy we are-- we all feel the pain of being left out, or even the perception of being left out. We can't not feel rejection any more than we can not feel pain when kicked in the stomach. 

What we can do is get better at identifying that pain more quickly--naming what we're feeling--and then figuring out the best strategy for how to move ourselves back to a place of peace. 

Experts in this field suggest that practices that create new thought patterns-- such as meditation, some drugs, and cognitive therapy-- can indeed help us. It is definitely worth the conscious effort of doing what we can to get ourselves out of the trap that so often leaves us feeling rejected, unlovable, or hopeless.

Responding in Friend-Making Situations

Far be it from this blog post to do the work of being able to replace all our thought patterns with loving and healthy ones, but here are a few steps we can take immediately:

  1. Catch Yourself. More Often. More Quickly. Becoming aware of this negativity bias is definitely the first step of growth.  To see where it pops up, what you say to yourself, and how it taunts you is where maturity begins.  We can can't change what we don't see. So with as much compassion as possible, let's start pointing it out "Oooh that's your fear talking..." "Oh that's your Inner Mean Girl* bullying you..." or "yep, that's me totally withdrawing because..."
  2. Show up with Curious Love! As parents watching their 3-year old have a melt-down in a public area knows-- when we see that tantrum we have several options: 1) ignore it and act like we don't see it; 2) scream louder and try to shame them into submission, or 3) get down on their level and ask a few questions. When it comes to my inner critic and fear-- I've found that the 3rd option is the only one that creates change because she usually believes that her fear is legitimate and that she's trying to protect me from something like loss, danger, or rejection. So to the best of my ability-- in that moment or later in reflection-- I try to ask questions such as a) What are you most scared of? b) Because if that were true, what would it mean? c) What are you trying to protect me from experiencing? (And to that one-- I often find myself thanking her for caring!) And that usually leads me into a conversation about what I really want and what I'm willing to do to get it.* (See * below for more info on this process because it really is more than a blog post will allow! Crying tears!)
  3. And remember this is true for others, too THEREFOR don't leave them wondering!  Therefor... let's do all we can to speak words of acceptance, safety, and affirmation louder than their inner voice, when possible. We can assume that everyone is approaching and interacting with us at some level of fear, skepticism, worry, or questioning. They are searching for clues as to whether they are safe and liked. So knowing this, we can make sure to give them as much evidence as possible that we won't bite, judge, or reject them!  We can smile, look them in the eyes, thank them for calling/coming over, show curiosity to them by asking questions, nod our head to indicate we're listening, and always end a conversation by helping answer the question we know they'll have when they leave: "Does she like me??
  • After meeting someone new: "I am so glad we met. I'm looking forward to following up with you to...."
  • After rejecting an invitation: "Oh I wish I could come, but thank you sooo much for inviting me.  I do hope you'll invite me again because I would love to do x with you." 
  • After time together: "That was lovely. Let's do it again sometime!"
  • After someone shares something vulnerable, "Oh I can understand why you would feel x, but I'm impressed with how you did y. That took a lout of courage!"

We can choose so much more kindness toward ourselves as we remember that all of us-- me, you, and even all those women who look like they never worry one iota what others think of them-- want to be liked.  We are prone to worry we're not. But oh how much we want it.

This month, I hope you practice balancing out that negativity bias in our world by showing the compassion to yourself and others that we all crave.

xoxo,

Shasta

***  This theme touches on this month's Friendship Focus in GirlFriendCircles, featuring Amy Ahlers, who is our teacher for the class "Is Your Inner Mean Girl Hijacking Your Friendships?" Join this month for FREE and you can download the class and all of our resources.  Plus, on August 23 I will be doing a live Q/A call on this subject and modeling/sharing how I bring healing to my inner critic voices. All women welcome to join us! xoxo

The Key to Starting a Women's Group

By: Katrina Emery Katrina Emery, a freelance writer from Portland, OR, occasionally interviews a member of GirlFriendCircles and writes a guest post about their friend-making journey so we can all learn from, inspire, and encourage each other in our own quests for better friendships.

It was while she was volunteering at her local hospital that retiree Kris Trainor knew she needed to focus on friendship more. Her role was to talk and sit with people before they go into the Cath Lab, sometimes helping them fill out forms. “Many of them didn’t have anyone reliable to put as a contact on the form. This is Prescott, Arizona--we’re friendly. People know their neighbors,” she recalls. “but then I thought,

‘Who would I put down?’ And I had to admit that I needed somebody.”

After 10 years of living in Prescott Kris had plenty of acquaintances, but not many close friends. Spurred on by GirlFriendCircles, she started a group dedicated to forming new friendships for older women. They meet at her local Starbucks for an hour every single week. Consistency, one of the three requirements of friendship, is the most important thing for them, since it's hard to get to know each other or built up trust without it. And as Kris says, “consistency can be the hardest to establish with new friends”  so the commitment to meet weekly has helped her group connect.

The ladies chat and share every week, using GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions to dig deeper. Kris laughs that she often has to bring the topic back. “People want to have meaningful conversations, but they’ll drift.” To make everyone more comfortable and ease them in, she’ll often read a list of values and goals she wrote down when she started the group. “I wrote what I wanted to get out of this. It includes 1) don’t take anything personally, 2) practice being open and transparent, 3) learn to express my love and appreciation of others, and 4) be madly in love with yourself. Part of what we’re doing here is learning to be good friends with ourselves.” The first time she read it the group responded better than she thought they would, and now it’s a common way she starts. “They love it!”

It hasn’t all been easy for Kris. The group has been meeting since August, but she’s not sure she can claim any of the ladies in her Committed friends yet. “I didn’t expect it to stay this hard. I didn’t realize I’d have to be kind of like a mom, in a leadership role.” To help, she reminds herself of the natural ebbs and flows of groups, rather than take it personally. “It’s been winter lately--bad weather, sickness, holidays, and the group naturally shrinks.” Going back to her list of what she wants to gain from the group helps, too. “I figured out that I had to go back to my sheet to know what I want.” Even on her end, consistency is a must.

One of the reasons she’s committed to the group is a memory of when she moved to Prescott and was looking at other ladies’ groups. “When I asked to join, they said no!” She was shocked. Her group has committed to staying open for anyone interested in joining. “I’m serious about always remaining open to new people. We’ve got to continue to widen our personal circles.”

Because they’ve all committed to meeting every single week, they’re rapidly getting to know one another. Consistency is key, knowing that they’ll continue to see each other without having to match up schedules. Outside of their weekly meetup, the group has taken classes together at the community college. One makeup class, Kris recalls, ended up to be a thinly veiled sales pitch, but the ladies all had fun anyway and they now laugh at the experience. They’ve started planning other events amongst themselves. Kris loves that, since she doesn’t feel she has the capacity to plan more. “I couldn’t do a bigger event every month," she says, “but I know that it’s easy to get a friend to meet you for coffee.”

And that’s what she’s done, every week, consistently.

Let's cheer for Kris and encourage her as she continues this commitment! And let's take inspiration from her: What is one way you could increase the consistency (regularity/repetition/frequency) in one of your friendships?

The 3 Requirements of All Healthy Friendships

We all want friendships, but most of us don't even know what that means. How Do You Define Friendship?

When I ask audiences to define the word I get things like:

  • "Someone you like."
  • "Someone who makes you laugh."
  • "Someone who's always there for you."
  • "Someone who knows the worst of you and still loves you."
  • "Someone you trust."

Those all sound warm-and-fuzzy, but none of those are a definition by which we can measure a relationship with another person:

  • There are a lot of people I like but who haven't become my friends.
  • Plenty of people make me laugh-- some I only know via TV, does that mean we're friends?
  • No one is always there for me... nor am I for them... does that mean we aren't friends?
  • Yes, we want to be accepted by being loved by people who know us, but if this is our litmus test then does that mean we all have to confess our worst sins before we can be friends with someone?
  • Trust? Trust them to do what???  I trust the Starbucks barista not to spit in my drink-- does that make us friends?

And the dictionary doesn't help much by basically just stating that a friendship is a "relationship between friends." ha! SO helpful!

A Definition of Friendship

I've taken the liberty to create a working definition of friendship (based on compiling/summarizing the research of many sociologists and psychologists) so we can all better identify and evaluate the qualities and actions of a friendship.

"A friendship is a mutual relationship between two people that is satisfying, safe, and where both people feel seen."

  1. In order for a relationship to be satisfying, it must have a foundation of positivity While positive feelings are necessary in all healthy relationships; they are paramount to our friendships because these are the relationships we are entering by choice. We all want our friendships to add more joy, peace, and support to our lives.
  2. In order for a relationship to be safe, it must develop consistencyConsistency is the action of repeating our time together which in turn develops our trust as we begin to create and modify expectations of each other. The more consistency we have, the more we feel like we can anticipate how a person will behave in different situations. Consistency is what gives our new friendships momentum to get to know each other and, over time, it's what builds a shared history and increases our commitment and feeling of support in each other.
  3. In order for a relationship where both people feel seen, it must develop vulnerabilityAs we spend more consistent time together, we are also incrementally revealing and sharing more of who we are with each other.  The more we let someone see us (always increasing our positivity with responses such as affirmation, acceptance, and empathy) then the more loved we'll feel for who we are.

If you don't have all three: then you don't have a healthy friendship.

And the flip side of that is equally true: if you have any friendship that isn't feeling meaningful or healthy, I can guarantee it's because at least one of these three requirements is in lack in that relationship.

In other words, if you just have positivity and consistency (fun times that are repeated often) but lack vulnerability then it's just a social group that lacks you Frientimacy the three requirements: positivity, consistency, vulnerabilityfeeling really known and supported.  Or, if you have positivity and vulnerability (a meaningful time where you felt seen and appreciated) but lack consistency so that it's not ever repeated, then it was just a really special moment with someone, but not a friendship.  Or if you have consistency and vulnerability (deep sharing happening all the time) but lack positivity, then it's just a draining relationship that leaves you feeling weary.  We have to have all three.

To that point, consider this quote I recently came across from The Atlantic:

"I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course,” says William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University. “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.”

Did you catch the three?

  1. Someone to talk to (vulnerability),
  2. someone to depend on (consistency), and
  3. someone to enjoy (positivity).

Now that we have a definition we know what actions can start, build, repair, or end any friendships in our lives.

Want to know which of the 3 Requirements would make the biggest difference in your relationships? Take this quick Frientimacy Quiz!

Note: These Three Requirements are unpacked, at length, in my book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.

 

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Matchmaker Advice: How to Attract & Bond

I am fascinated by the similarities, and differences, of romantic and platonic relationships. This Valentines Day, I thought it would be fun to inspire our friendships a bit by interviewing a professional Matchmaker to see how we can improve all our relationships. 

Joy Nordenstrom is the Founder of Joy of Romance, Inc. and Chemistry of Connection.  She’s a relationship coach, certified matchmaker, love story preservationist and romantic event planner. 

Shasta: We often treat romantic and platonic relationships as filling two different needs, but in some ways they can speak to the same human need, right?

Joy: Yes, all relationships speak to our need to belong.

Positive Psychologist Christopher Peterson’s research found having healthy relationships with family, friends, and coworkers turns out to be the strongest predictor of happiness, and often health, in most studies on human wellbeing. In a study detailed in an article titled “To Belong is to Matter: Sense of Belonging Enhances Meaning in Life,” the authors found:

“... correlational, longitudinal, and experimental evidence that a sense of belonging predicts how meaningful life is perceived to be.”

So in short, to belong equates in our mind to having meaning in life: If I matter to others, my life matters.

That sense of belonging can be found both in our intimate partnership and in our purely friendship driven relationships.

We've been studying and prioritizing romantic relationships for longer than friendships so I am always fascinated by the idea of what we can learn from those relationships that might be helpful to our friendships.

Anything that jumps out to you about how we attract others?

Absolutely.  Whether it's for romance or friendship, we still have to attract each other and connect. So when I work with my single clients to help them get ready for finding a partner, there is an exercise I have created to help them get into the right mental and emotional mindset to exude an air of self-confidence, positivity and receptivity.

It is inspired by my favorite quote:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Taking action in the direction of what pushes you a little, or a lot, out of your comfort zone helps create in your brain a chemistry similar to being in lust or the early stages of falling in love.

With the Scary Things’ Exercise, I ask an individual to work with the process for a minimum of 21 days in a row, in order to begin establishing a habit. The essence of the exercise is to be mindful and challenge yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone every day.

All that we know about facial gestures and body language combined with neurosciences, shows us that what’s happening in our minds is being broadcast to others through our face and body. Once someone looks at us our spindle cells and mirror neurons wire us to connect and for them to “feel” to some extent what is internally happening for us.

Note that as humans, we gravitate towards individuals who are fascinating, curious and have a zest for life. In short, whether for romance or friendship, we want to be in relationships with those who are interesting and happy.

Love that!  That philosophy of staying engaged with life so that we're "more interesting and more interested in others" leads to a mindset that opens us to more connection.

And then, when we're with someone we are open to connecting with, what is one behavior we can be mindful to practice that can help our interaction?

Well, one easy tip is to know the impact of left eye gazing because our success in bonding resides in our ability to put others at ease.

You mean looking at their left eye?

Well if you gaze from right eye to right eye, it activates the left side of the brain, the side that analyzes, picks things apart, and looks for ways to get something out of the person or situation. Your facial expressions harden and become more intense. I call this the used car salesman gaze. Subconsciously, it makes the other person uncomfortable. This may be good as a tactic for hardcore negotiation but not for the art of connecting.

But when you engage in a gaze with someone utilizing your left eye you are tapping into the right side of your brain allowing you to access your full emotive self. With a left eye to left eye gaze, your mind will concentrate on where there is synergy and how you can work together. By gradually turning your face to the right, even by 5-10 percent, your left eye becomes more dominant. When you gaze at someone with your left eye, the corners of your mouth and the wrinkles around your eyes soften making the person you are looking at feel more at ease.

Again, the more someone is at ease, the easier it is for two people to feel safe, accepted, and be receptive to bonding.

Joy, thank you for sharing this wisdom about how we can attract others by paying attention to our own growth and exploration and connect with others by something as simple as left eye gazing.

May we all continue to pursue our human need of belonging in the healthiest and most intentional ways possible!

Want to connect more with Joy? Follow her on Twitter at @JoyofRomance or on her Joy of Romance Facebook page.

The Secret to Moving from Acquaintances to Friends

We learn so much through sharing our stories!  Thanks to Katrina Emery for interviewing a GirlFriendCircles.com member, Jan Link, about what she's experiencing in her friend-making process that can inspire all of us! When Jan retired three years ago and moved back to the Midwest, she was going home. After 40 years away, though, home didn’t come with many friends anymore.  Three years after she came back to her small town in Wisconsin, near the Minnesota border, she still hadn’t met many people to call for a fun day out or lunch date.

“I felt like I should go stand on a street corner with a sign that said, ‘I need friends,’ ” she laughs. When she joined GirlfriendCircles she hoped that would change everything. She signed up and met a few new people, but found herself right back to where she started. Nothing seemed to stick.

She wasn’t sure what was wrong. “I knew I didn’t have any trouble with vulnerability,” she says, pointing out that, “Who I am is what you get!” So she participated in some of the GirlFriendCircles classes and when she listened to "The 3 Requirements to Starting Friendships" she had an ah-ha moment: she needed more consistency with her new friendships.

“I wasn’t being as consistent as I needed to be. I’d meet friendly acquaintances, but I couldn’t get it to blossom from there by just getting together occasionally.” Knowing she needed to give more regular time to new friendships in order to create the momentum that leads to bonding, she decided to commit to growing a group of local friends, using the GirlFriendCircles site and also going beyond. “I made posters and flyers inviting women to join in fun activities, and stuck them everywhere: grocery store, health store, church, the next few towns over, gyms, even gas stations (everyone needs gas!). Every month I put out 15 posters, and I change them up.”

Now, a group of 15 ladies consistently get together several times a month, and it’s still growing. “The girls love it so much,” Jan says. Most of the group is ladies around her own age, retired, some widowed. “With exits and losses, we all need more friends through life changes,” Jan says. “Having someone nearby to go shopping with is so important.”

The group started out once a month, but Jan quickly realized that even that wasn’t enough consistency to really feel close to each other. Now they meet 2-3 times a month, and often without her needing to organize it. They host craft groups, go shopping or out to lunch, and have a regular Bunco game night. Once a month Jan makes breakfast and has everyone over. She’s proud of the fact that they consistently show up, given the distance at times: “In Wisconsin, if someone has to travel over 9 miles, they really have to think about it!”

Jan’s learned a lot about the value of consistency over the course of the group. She had joined a few committees at her church, but since they meet only once every three months, it just wasn’t enough. She plans on urging for more, and volunteering to be a contact and advocate for people who have just moved to the area. From being a new transplant herself, she know what’s it’s like.

Her advice to anyone trying to make friends is to keep getting in touch: “I hear a lot that I reached out and didn’t get any replies. I don’t take it personally if that happens to me,” she says. “Try again. Be consistent. Plenty of people are more than willing to talk.”

Her group of ladies is strong and growing, and they often express appreciation for Jan’s part. “It’s so rewarding, every time they thank me. But it’s all of them: I’m so inspired by them.”

All women are invited to join GirlFriendCircles.com for monthly classes, local events, and new friends!

What's REALLY Behind Your New Goal?

Want to lose weight? Want to make more money?

Want to get married?

Want to write that book?

We have beautiful goals and hopes outlined for the New Year, but in this video blog today I invite you to look and see if this one sneaky, but common, motivation isn't the thing behind your goal?

And if it is... what can you do to invest more in what you actually want instead of investing in the path you hope will eventually end there?

Leave a comment to encourage each other what we've learned from our own past-- Have you ever accomplished something only to be disappointed that it didn't lead to the feeling that you had hoped? Or, have you ever invested in really pursuing the actual connection you most wanted? What did you learn?

Because what I want for all of us is that we accomplish our very best FROM a place of knowing we're loved and supported, rather than from an unrecognized attempt to prove we're good enough to be loved and supported.

xoxo

2017: THE YEAR OF COURAGEOUS CONNECTING.  And if you're interested in joining hundreds of women this year as we invest our energy in creating more belonging in our life-- now's the time to commit because we're giving you over $180 worth of savings and bonuses ON TOP of everything you receive in our community!  YAY!  Join GirlFriendCircles.com by Jan 28 to commit to a year of meeting friends and making better friendships!

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The 4 Bonding Styles-- Which Is Yours?

Can you articulate what experiences you need to have with others to feel closer to them?  And did you know that while there are the 3 main requirements of all healthy relationships (consistency, positivity, and vulnerability, taught in Frientimacy), how we each judge our closeness to someone else will look different based, in part, on our temperament? With the December holidays often gathering us with friends and family, and the soon-following New Year that inspires us to prioritize our relationships in the year ahead; let's take a moment to look at how our temperaments can inform the bonding process.

By reminding ourselves how we're each wired differently we can better understand 1) how to increase our chances of feeling connected in our interactions 2)  and hopefully also to feel more aware that others might need something different.

In this group of 5 of us friends-- we have 3 of the 4 temperaments represented!

How Myers-Briggs Informs the Bonding Process

There are so many nuanced and amazing ways to better understand ourselves but since Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory (MBTI) is one of the most popular, I thought I'd use that one today to illustrate how we are each looking for something different in our interactions and relationships.

While there are 16 different types of people identified within the Myers-Briggs sorter, we all tend to fall under one of 4 major groups: the Artisans, the Guardians, the Idealists, and the Rationals.  With that said, we are all incredibly unique and might have elements of many, or all, of them.  What's most important is simply reminding ourselves to take a moment to assess what it takes for us to feel close to someone else AND to not assume that everyone else feels the same.  :)

(It's not imperative for you to know your type to identify with one the following four explanations, but if you'd like to take the inventory, I know there are multiple free assessments you can search for, and if you want to purchase from the official Myers-Briggs Foundation you can do so here.)

  1. The Artisans, or SP's:  Our fun-loving, optimistic, spontaneous, and creative Artisans (roughly 40% of the population) feel most close to people when they play together. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if there were fun things-to-do, game-playing, and lots of activity. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone they deem boring, or who doesn't share their interests or hobbies. The more they can play with someone or engage in a shared activity together-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  2. The Guardians, or SJ's: Our loyal, responsible, hard-working, thoughtful, and organized Guardians (roughly 40% of the population) feel most close to people when they support each other. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they feel everyone participated in a tradition, followed social or family etiquette by getting along, helped prepare for or plan the events, and basically showed priority to the value of being together. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they feel that person isn't "carrying their weight," or "living up to expectations." The more they feel needed and feel that others are playing their roles and contributing-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  3. The Idealists, or NF's: Our idealistic, romantic, deep-feeling, and passionate Idealists (roughly 10% of the population) feel most close to people when they feel seen and understood. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they feel they had meaningful conversations, which included people expressing an interest in their lives, ideas, and feelings; and trusting them to share the same. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they feel like the conversations were "shallow" which happens if the conversations stayed on "updating" and "concrete" topics instead of on the sharing of lives and feelings. The more they feel expressed, seen for who they are, and affirmed-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.
  4. The Rationals, or NT's: Our pragmatic, skeptical, strategic, utilitarian, and autonomous Rationals (roughly 5-10% of the population) feel most close to people when they feel intellectually stimulated. They tend to look back on a family/friend gathering and judge it a success if they helped solve a problem, were asked for their opinion on something they deemed important, or participated in a rousing conversation that challenged them to think. In general, it will be more difficult for them to feel close to someone if they don't feel like that person values, or is capable of, thinking for themselves, examining abstract subjects such as politics, economics, technology, or the exploration of how things work. The more they feel respected for their intellectual processing and the willingness of others to engage with them in their areas of interest-- the more they will enjoy that relationship.

Maximizing the Bonding Process

It is imperative that I understand what I most need in order to leave a gathering feeling more connected to those I love. When I can articulate what I need-- be it activities, traditions/support, heartfelt conversation, or sharing stimulating ideas-- I can be more thoughtful about how I might foster those moments.

But just as powerful as realizing that I need to take the initiative of getting my needs met is the realization that I will want to also be purposeful in engaging in the actions that will feel bonding to those I love and cherish.  That might mean:

  • Playing games or lacing up ice-skates with my Artisan... even if I am tempted to go clean the kitchen or don't feel very skilled at the activity, remembering that they will feel closer to me by building that memory.
  • Attending the family meal, dropping off a thoughtful gift, or showing up at the religious event with my Guardian... even if I don't find the event "meaningful" or would rather be playing than helping show support or giving in service, remembering I can love them by supporting the people, institutions, and ideals that they love.
  • Staying focused and asking follow-up questions with my Idealist... even if it feels awkward, remembering they feel valued by the interest that I show.
  • Asking what book my Rational is reading these days and exploring what they think about it.... even if the topic is "boring" to me, remembering that they feel respected when we share opinions and thoughts.

Our temptation might be to judge each others way of bonding as "shallow," "boring," "exhausting," or simply as "not me." But being in relationship with others calls us to be intentional about our needs and theirs.

May you end December feeling ever closer, and more connected, to those in your tribe.

xoxo

p.s.  Does this resonate? Is this helpful? In what ways might you apply this information to benefit your relationships?  :)

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Moving and Making New Friends: Embracing the Change

When we want to make new friendships, we're often dismayed at how challenging it can feel. Katrina Emery, a GFC member who lives in Portland OR, recently interviewed Maggie Chang about how she ended up seeing a move as the best excuse to start over with greater intention!

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by Katrina Emery

Maggie Chang had lived in New York City all her life. Her big move had been from Queens to Brooklyn, and that was far enough. But moving to California? Terrifying.

“My husband made me do it!” she laughs. At first she had scoffed at his suggestion. She was perfectly fine, had family and friends nearby, and California was so far away!

Maggie Chang-- thank you for sharing a glimpse of your journey with us as you continue to develop the friendships that matter most to you!

Gradually she warmed up to it, though, and two years ago she, her husband, and her then-9-year-old son found themselves new residents of San Bruno, right outside San Francisco.

She tackled the move by pursuing new interests and passions, which was also a way to make new friends. After adopting a dog, she started volunteering at SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). She’s gotten outside more: hiking, beaches, dog parks, camping, exercise, yoga.

Her yoga passion actually led her to a deep friendship journey, in a roundabout way. In researching a yoga retreat, she ended up at Shasta’s New Year Retreat (“Reveal: A weekend where good friends dream up a great year.”). “It definitely wasn’t yoga!” she laughs, but she ended up loving the chance to delve thoughtfully into her own wisdom and intuition. The retreat offers women a beautiful place for guided personal reflection and facilitated group connection designed to reveal the themes and feelings that will best lead each person in the year ahead.

Shasta's Reveal Retreat at Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, CA

Maggie used the intention created at the retreat to focus on her relationships, and it was there that some realizations about her life in Brooklyn came up. “I was not actually happy in NYC,” she says, “not very connected to the friends and family I had there.” She hadn’t realized it at the time, but there was a distance growing in her old friendships that wasn’t being addressed or augmented with new ones. She discovered she had been suffering from a lack of meaningful healthy friendships for a while, even before moving. The research that shows we replace our friends every 7 years was especially striking to her. “Nobody teaches us these things!” She had been stuck in past versions of friendships that had changed. “There was some shame connected to it,” she admits, noting that since she claimed she had current friends (even though the dynamics had changed), she felt uncomfortable searching for “new” ones.

It wasn’t until the move forced her into new relationships that she suddenly felt ok pursuing them. Now, she was new to an area and had practical reasons for making new friends. The need to reach out made it ok to try. She joined GFC as a GFConnector last December, and committed to facilitating events for a period. “That’s helped. Not that it’s been easy or I’ve made a lot of friends, but it’s like I’m strengthening that muscle.”

Since moving to California, Maggie describes herself as being more intentional and more mindful of friendships. Her son, now 11, has his own friendships at school. “I’m now encouraging him, making it an actual goal.” she notes. “I want him to know that it’s important enough to work on.” She hasn’t found the perfect way to be vulnerable to him about her own friendship struggles, but hopes she can keep working on that. “One new struggle that has popped up is: Should I be making friends with moms of kids his age?” she wonders. More requirements for hopeful friendships (that they live close, that the kids get along, etc.), though, just ends up adding extra layers of complications.

Two years in, and Maggie still feels she’s in the middle of the transition. Her advice is to embrace the uncomfortable: “You’re going to learn and grow from change, so let it happen.” With the freedom of a new location, the pursuit and opportunity of new relationships is an important part of her life. “I’m not saying it’s easy or doesn’t take work, but I’m starting to meet new people and start new relationships.” She sounds hopeful. And proud of herself.

And she did find an actual yoga retreat to go on recently. An intense camping-and-yoga experience, the women there naturally bonded, and Maggie is hoping they can continue to form some meaningful friendships. She’s also already signed up for Reveal Retreat again this January, looking forward to connecting with other personal-growth minded women!

**By the way, if you’re interested in more information on the next Reveal Retreat, January 20-22, 2017, in wine country, CA, check it out here! http://www.shastanelson.com/retreat/ There are still a few spaces left!

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What If No One Shows Up To My Event?

I LOVE teaching but sometimes we can learn even more through the stories and experiences of each other so I've asked Katrina Emery, a GFC member who lives in Portland OR, to help curate and write up some stories that might help inspire us all.  I love that she started not with a story that we'd all consider a "big success," but rather submitted a story of what many of us would consider a "failure." --Shasta

What If No One Shows Up To My Event?

by Katrina Emery

You know you want more friends, but thinking of hosting a whole event may feel intimidating. What if no one shows up? What if you're vulnerable and stick yourself out there and no one takes your hand? Miriam knows that feeling, but she's here to tell you to do it anyway. Maybe no one will show up. But maybe they will.

A GFConnector in Riverside, California, Miriam has volunteered to be an active

Miriam isn't going to give up on continuing to invite potential friends into her life.

member in the GirlFriendCircles.com community in creating local friendships, both with herself and between others. “I believe that friendships make us better people,” she says. “Feeling lonely is not a good feeling, so I am taking responsibility for my happiness and [having] friends is a hole that needs to be filled.” Her profile cheekily mentions that she enjoys walks on the beach, though it’s even more fun when shared with others!

Part of the responsibility of a GFConnector is to facilitate events that allows members to meet new friends at a local hangout like karaoke, drinks, or just some coffee and conversation. For an introvert like Miriam hosting an event can be a challenge to get out of her normal comfort zone. But she was up to it, as she says, “I figured that if I want to be part of this women’s friendship movement, I would have to push myself into uncharted territory.” Waiting for strangers to show up at a local cafe was certainly uncharted. She kept it simple and sent invites to women who lived nearby, and even a few family and friends, inviting them all to meet at Panera Bread for breakfast.

She arrived early and waited with her GirlFriendCircles Sharing Questions (fun conversation topics to help everyone share!), ready to make some connections. And waited. Eventually her daughter came in to sit with her, so Miriam tried out some of the questions on her. It ended up being a good conversation that they probably wouldn’t have had in a different setting. After her daughter had to leave, Miriam stayed another half hour but when no one else came, she left the cafe, admittedly disappointed. Later, she said it turns out someone did come about 15 minutes before the event was set to end!

Despite the absence of her new friends, Miriam stayed positive, joking about the “almost no-show” event. She knows and deeply understands the difficulties in giving time to new friends. Between working as a Family Medicine doctor full-time as well as caring for family members that have become dependent on her, she faces the challenges of time daily. “I am working on creating time, because it’s important to me. I need peers… with whom I can laugh and play and recharge my batteries.”

Her story has a happy ending--or rather, middle. Or beginning? Miriam held another Connecting Event just recently and this time was able to have a lovely conversation with a new friend! With another event under her belt, she’s already planning a third for more activities. “Remember it takes time,” she says of making friends, “but it is so worth it. Enjoy the journey and take notes. There is much to learn about relationships.”

Leave your cheers for Miriam in the comments or share with us your own experiences about what you've learned from some 'failures' or what keeps you from giving up, even when it's tough!

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3 Tips for Successfully Making New Friends

I've got good news and bad news as I share my 3rd video in our series this week.

The good news is that with practice I am getting better:  it's shorter and I don't think I use any of the words that I apparently have a tendency to overuse: "abundantly", "just", or "right?".  :) The bad news is that I didn't shower and my hair reflects it! haha! oh well!?!

If you haven't had a chance to watch the other two videos this week then I'll catch you up today! This one covers it all!!

In this video I reveal:

  1. Which of the 3 Friendship Benefits Matters Most to You.  I remind you of the three biggest benefits that we covered in our 1st video, plus I share which one was overwhelmingly the most important to all of you based on all your comments! (Thank you! It was so fun to hear from so many of you!)
  2. Which of the 4 Type of Loneliness is the most Common to You.  In a poll that we took after this video-- there was a very clear front-runner to which of the 4 types of loneliness is the most common one.
  3. And, My 3 Tips If You Want to Successfully Make Better Friends.  I share three expectations or things to encourage you to do if you want to make sure that you actually make better friends and not just say you want to!  (I expect that you're not doing at least one of these!)

If you're willing, please leave a comment and share with me which tip is the hardest one for you!  Which one do you find yourself most resisting or refusing to believe?

May we all stay open and willing to doing whatever it takes to create meaningful connection,

Shasta

CEO, GirlFriendCircles.com

p.s. We are re-opening GirlFriendCircles.com THIS Tuesday, July 19! Get ready to say "yes" to greater connection in your life! Watch your inbox for your personal invitation!

p.s.s. Not sure if the new GirlFriendCircles.com will provide what you most need and want? Watch today's video to find out what's coming!

The Four Most Common Types of Loneliness

Hello GirlFriends!

I am more convinced than ever that the vast majority of us are suffering from loneliness. And it's not that we're hermits or socially awkward individuals as much as it's a combination of:

  1. We're exhausted and distracted with our lives.  Some of us are, in fact, around people all day long and serving people in every direction, but still feeling lonely because there's a difference between being networked and feeling like we have a support net under us. We're lonely because we don't have the energy to engage more meaningfully.
  2. We haven't been taught how to connect with others. We feel like intimacy and connection should come automatically to us, but few of us have ever studied the subject, practiced new relationship skills, or been inspired by amazing modeling. This is a subject that we can learn and improve with intentional focus! We're lonely because we don't know what to do to change it.
  3. We've been told that our friendships are a luxury when in fact they are very much a necessity to our health. More important to our health and happiness than our marriages, children, exercise, or work and money is whether we feel like we are supported and loved.  We're lonely because our life is full with everything else and we haven't prioritized our sense of community.

In this 11 minute video, I want to talk about loneliness, what it looks like in our lives, and how I want to address those needs by helping you meet new friends and make better friendships.  Here's a glimpse:

  1. Why friendship is the most important health issue of our time. Wait until you hear the quote I share by Dr. Dean Ornish!  Amazing!
  2. Why admitting our loneliness is important and what the statistics show us about how few of us feel we have someone with whom to confide. If you don't feel like you have a close friend-- you will soon realize you are not alone!
  3. The four most common types of loneliness so we can recognize the needs in our own lives.  Which one most accurately reflects your current, or recent, experience?
  4. And how GirlFriendCircles.com can help women meet new friends and make better friendships.  We're getting ready to re-open our doors to a new community that wants to provide resources and inspiration for all four types of loneliness!

At the end of the video I invite you to leave a comment and share with all of us which of the 4 areas of loneliness speaks most to you?  Which need do you most need to pay attention to meeting?

With so much love and a desire to transform our lives from that gnawing loneliness into fulfilling connections,

Shasta

p.s. This video is the 2nd in a series of 3 so watch for my next one on Saturday when I teach how we can grow our sense of connection! (And in case you missed the first one.)

p.s.s. I am re-opening GirlFriendCircles.com next Tuesday, July 19! Get ready to say "yes" to greater connection in your life! xoxo

In Sickness and In Health, Part 3: Making Friends While Sick Or In Pain

This is the 3rd post in our 3-part series on friendships with those who suffer with chronic pain and illness. The first one, written by Lucy Smith (pseudonym) shared her experience with us after having been diagnosed with a debilitating neurological condition. She bravely wrote what she wishes her friends understood about friendship with someone who feels sick or limited. The second one, I weighed in with tips and principles I think are important for those trying to make friends while in pain.  And this final one, is again written by Lucy Smith as she shares her tips, from personal experience, about what she;s learned about making new friends even when limited by her health.  When struck suddenly with a debilitating neurological condition a couple years ago, Lucy Smith's (pseudonym), ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult.

Your situations are all so very different, please take anything that speaks to you, and add your own tips to the comments. It will inspire all of us to see what others are trying and finding helpful! Above all we applaud everyone who dares to connect their hearts, especially when their bodies resist in any way. xoxo

4 Tips From Someone Who Knows The Journey, By Lucy Smith

  1. Create Some Friendships With Others Who "Get It." Finding people with similar struggles in a support group is often a great place to start.   That might be a support group for those living with chronic illness, a local disease-specific group (i.e. the National Multiple Sclerosis Society support group), or maybe some people who were on the periphery of your social network who have had medical challenges that you couldn't relate to before.  In some cases, you might not find those networks you were looking for waiting for you.  In that case, it may be worth creating a Meetup group or some other forum where you can bring people together in the way you were seeking. This doesn't always need to be a big time or energy suck - it might be as simple as stating that the group will be meeting a the coffee shop at 10:00 am on the 4th Saturday of the month and showing up for several months as momentum builds.
  2. Initiate and follow-through, as much as possible. Once you've got a pool of potential new friends, try to follow (as much as you are able) Shasta's normal advice for cultivating new friends: those are the ingredients of a healthy relationship and even if we feel unhealthy, we still want our friendships to be healthy! That means take initiative when you can and have those "open hands" as people with a lot of their plates may not be able to commit as often or may not be able to follow through when the time comes. Though a friend will understand occasionally when you aren't up to getting together as planned, if canceling and rejection is the only interaction you have, that friend may grow weary of making the effort to reach out, even if she understands the circumstances, and may defer to not reaching out but instead waiting for you to make the effort when you are up to it.
  3. Cultivate fun and joy: If you can get a regular group who understands your challenges, work on growing towards cultivating fun and joy where possible through activities that are not illness specific.  Certainly it is great to update each other on your challenges and wins, medical and otherwise, but cultivating activities that aren't centered around the narrowness of illness allows you to reclaim part of your whole self.
  4. Receive, Say Yes, and Appreciate: And for those of us who are sick, it is helpful for us to remember to try to show up on our side when we are lucky enough to have a friend who is willing to stick by us during difficult times.   Allowing others to help you is a gift to the person who is offering to help - both to receive the help and to maintain connection.  We may need to work on being open to receive the gift.  You may repeatedly turn down offers to get together and get out or even to have someone come visit you or bring a meal because you aren't feeling as well as you wished.  Maybe you don't want to be seen when you aren't feeling well, or you haven't showered, changed out of your PJs, and put your make-up on.   Instead of feeling embarrassed about this, it is helpful to remember that you've got a true friend who is putting in the extra effort to show up when things are hard and that she doesn't care much about the shower, PJs, and make-up, but rather she cares about you. Say yes to that.

Thank you Lucy!  I appreciate you reaching out and being a catalyst for this conversation, and for sharing some of your energy with us in such an inspirational and informative way!

And I hope many more of you chime in on the comments!  What tips do you have?

How much do you REALLY want good friends?

Rare is the person who will say "I don't want more from my friendships." Whether that "more" means making new friends, feeling more fulfilled with their current friends, or feeling like they have the time to enjoy those friends-- most of us want more.

And yet... unfortunately all to rare, too, is the person willing to really do something about it.

Unfortunately, the actual process of making friends includes activities and feelings most of us would rather avoid:

  • putting ourselves in situations to meet people (and, unfortunately TV characters don't count)
  • small talk with strangers (every friend starts out as one!)
  • initiating a get-together (why can't they just appear on our door when we have time?!)
  • annoying logistics (back and forth emails, anyone?)
  • feeling our insecurities (what will I say? what if I look nervous? what if I'm too shy?)
  • fearing rejection (they probably won't like me... they probably don't need new friends... they probably won't make time for me)
  • believing the future can be different from the past (ever been betrayed? ever felt de-valued? ever felt like nothing works?)

The very process of making friends quite different from the outcome we hope to experience.

What we want to feel is supported, loved, seen, known, and valued.  What it takes to get there sometimes is awkwardness, small talk, exhaustion, insecurities, and uncertainty.

What we want is intimacy; what we have to start with are introductions.

What we want is familiar; what we have to start with is foreign.

What we want is a best friend; what we have to start with is a new friend.

His Question: Are you willing to suffer for what you want?

A blog post written by a guy named Mark Manson in 2013 is now making it's rounds on Facebook (I had two separate friends send me the article this week!) where he challenges his readers: are you willing to suffer a process for the outcome you desire?

He argues it's the most important question you can ask yourself.  Reminding us that we all want pretty similar things in life: healthy bodies, amazing relationships, meaningful work, abundant money, and realized dreams, but we're not all willing to suffer the process that comes with those things.

Here are some examples, besides the friendship one I started with:

  • In the book writing world, it's said that 81% of Americans say that they want to write a book-- but only a small fraction do.  Understandably... since it's a long road of time and emotion.
  • Most Americans want to be thinner or healthier... but not all of us are willing to go sweat or say no to our pleasures in order to achieve it.
  • Mark said he wanted to be a rock star, but he wasn't really willing to play small gigs, haul his music gear, and round-up a band. It's a lot of work!

He says, "I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way."

My Answer: The Price Tag

I agree with him that we do in fact need to ask ourselves what we're willing to give toward the outcomes we desire...

But, and this is a big but: our ultimate goal isn't to suffer as much as it's to invest in what we say matters to us.

The metaphor I often use with myself is that of a price tag:  How much am I willing to pay for this?  Which has to be asked with the question: how much do I value this?

price of friendships

When we go shopping-- we have choices.  We can buy the used, beat-up, 10-year old car for $2500... or we can buy the newest one that boasts a few more zeroes on the price tag.

Which one is the right choice? It depends on what you think you're buying, how much it matters to you, what you most value/prioritize, how many resources you have, and what other things you need to buy with what you have.

Sometimes the "cheaper" option is the right choice and sometimes it's not.  Sometimes the higher price tagged item is the one we choose because we value what we're getting with that extra cost.

We all have things in our lives we're willing to "pay the higher price" for... we do that because we believe the outcome is worth the cost.  We pay more for what we value.

So the goal isn't just to be pay the cheapest price for everything, nor is it to pay the highest price for everything we say we want; the goal is to make sure that we invest our resources in the areas that we say matter the most.  That may mean, since we have limited resources, we have to "spend less" in some areas in order to "afford more" in other areas.

What Price Tag is Worth Friendship to You?

I invite you to really ask yourself this year:

  1. How much do I really want more in my friendships this year?
  2. How important is that outcome to me? How valuable is it?
  3. What price tag or investment am I willing to make for that outcome?
  4. Do the two--the value and the price-- match? (Does the value and price feel fair or am I hoping for "a new car" while only willing to pay for "a used one"?)

The goal, of course, isn't to "suffer" but rather to know that what we're investing in is worth the outcome to us.

If experiencing more in your friendships is important to you... what might be some of the "costs" (see list at top of post for some ideas!) that you think would be the best investments you're willing and able to make toward that outcome?

My prayer for you: that you reach your friendships goals and say "it was worth every cent."

If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more...

I ruffled a few feathers last week with my post about being willing to be the friend who initiates more with others than they seem to reciprocate. Several of us feel like we're making more time for our friendships than others are... So first a hearty thank you to all of you left comments and shared your feelings! My answer was in response to a girl asking how to build relationships when it seemed others didn't make the time.  But for many of you, you expressed that for you this isn't a strategy issue but rather one that actually hurts your feelings and leaves you feeling insecure.

Therefore, I want to jump off from that post to talk about the danger of taking the actions of others personally.

In my upcoming book Frientimacy I share amazing research about how painful it is for any of us to think we're being rejected. It's a very real feeling and it hurts.  I totally understand why we all feel so fearful about being seen as wanting a friendship more than someone else, or worrying about whether this is their way of saying "I don't want to be your friend." But if we take the busy-ness of others as a personal offense then we'll not only stay lonely for a long time, but we'll be miserable and sad, too.

Their Actions Hurt Our Feelings

In my first marriage I cried myself to sleep a number of nights. At the time I was convinced those hurt feelings were his fault. I was in graduate school and had to be in class by 7 am so our needs would clash when he wanted to stay up late watching some new show called The Daily Show instead of come to bed with me. (Ha! Little did I know how much I'd come to love that show year later!) I held an ideal image in my head that couples go to bed at the same time.  I wanted to talk and cuddle and connect with him. To make a long story short-- despite my invitations, my tears, and my begging-- I occasionally went to bed alone. And when I did... my heart would break.

To many others this story might not sound so bad.  He certainly wasn't an awful person for wanting to stay up and laugh. But I had gotten it in my head that he was choosing that over me.  In other words, I believed a narrative that whispered: "If he really loved me, he would see how important this is to me and come to bed with me."

We do this all the time in all our relationships, even our friendships:

  • If she really understood me then she'd know not to ask that question...
  • If she really trusted me then she'd have told me about that problem...
  • If she really appreciated me then she'd have done more to say thanks...
  • If she really valued me then she'd remember my birthday...
  • If she really cared about me then she'd have offered to help me...

And the one that hits a little closer to home from the last post:

  • If she really liked me then she'd initiate us getting together more often...

Our feelings are hurt and it makes sense that we'd be tempted to look for who is causing that pain. When we see them doing something we don't want, or not doing something we do want, then we're quick to assume they are to blame for our hurt feelings, insecurities, or anger.

It's Not About Us

But here's the truth, that's easier to see when it's someone else's narrative (hence why I shared from my marriage) and not our own: how other people act says more about them than it does about us.

And what it says about them isn't the bad that we often assume it is.

Take my ex-husband for example. I valued going to bed together early.  Nothing inherently wrong with that desire, but neither is it better than his needs and desires. Perhaps he valued decompressing after a long day, perhaps his life was draining and it needed more laughter, perhaps he needed more freedom, autonomy and independence in life, or perhaps his body cycle was just different from mine and he wasn't tired yet? All of those are just as valid as my need.

And here's what I know to my core now that I have experience more growth and maturity since those fights long ago: I don't believe for a second that he ever stayed up thinking to himself: "I hope she knows now that I don't love her." I absolutely know that was never the message he was trying to send.

Yet, I cried in bed, suffering, worrying, and shrinking because of the meaning I assigned to his actions.

Many a woman goes to bed before her partner and isn't crying and hurting over it.  I chose my suffering because of what I chose to think about someone else's actions.

The Four Agreements

In the best-selling book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz teaches that the Second Agreement, if we want to live lives full of joy and peace, is "Don't Take Anything Personally." He says,

"Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about 'me'."

In the case of a friend not calling, inviting, and reaching out-- it would be easy to take it personally:  she doesn't like me; or to blame and devalue her: "I don't need friends like that-- I deserve better!"  Our ego is convinced it either means she doesn't think we're good enough or that we don't think she's good enough.  But one way or another: someone is bad.

But no friendship will ever blossom with that fear and frustration.  The best chances we have for creating the love around us that we want is to keep putting out love and ensuring that our actions are in alignment with that desire.  We want to keep inviting and stay as warm as possible.

The Caveats

So am I saying be a stalker?  No.  :) If she is rude, ignores your invitations completely, has never once said yes, or just acts miserable when we're together-- then, you're right: move on. (It's still not about you though!)

But recognize that our tendency to assume others are trying to reject us is just our own made-up story. Most women out there want more meaning relationships in their lives and you can help show the how that's done-- most of them will thank you for it someday. (And in the meantime you get what you wanted: more time with friends!)

  • It's okay to keep inviting if she sometimes says yes and answers our invitation-- it doesn't need to be 50/50.
  • We can't expect a new-ish friend to make the same kind of time for us that she might if we were close friends.  We can keep building the relationship slowly and trust the growth.
  • If you've been friends for a while and she's not as responsive as she used to be, check in with her and see how she's doing... (she may be feeling hurt too!)... it's not stalking to keep trying to engage with those who we are in relationship with.
  • If you're trying to start friendships-- put out a net instead of a fishing line! Don't zero in on one person, but stay open to developing several friendships at once.

We're the ones well aware of how important friendship is to our life... for us to keep reaching out doesn't help them as much as it helps us.  We aren't doing them this amazing favor as much as we are gifting ourselves with the likelihood that with our efforts we will keep developing the intimacy and love with others that we crave. It is a mutual relationship if we enjoy being with them when they say yes.

I'd rather error on the side of having reached out one too many times than to have stopped one time too few? If I can not take it personally then I can go down swinging for love and friendship.

Does that make sense, in general?  I know it's easy to try to find the exception... but overall can you see that it's better to put love out there than to keep track of scores, and better to assume the best of others than take it personally? I'm not saying it's easy but I think it's worth practicing!

When You're The Only One Making Time for Friendship

Dear Shasta,

I’ve been binge-reading your blog and very happy I discovered it. I think what you are saying mostly makes a lot of sense, but I’m struggling with something: It is so very hard to meet people who are open to new friendships. On the rare instances that I find people who seem like they are, it’s almost impossible to find people who have the *time* to get together regularly. It’s hard to move friends down the pipeline, so to speak. Everyone seems just so very busy.  I can’t find anyone to say yes regularly enough to build meaningful friendships. Heck, it’s hard to get anyone to say yes at all. What do you suggest in situations like these?

Dearest Willing to Make the Time:

First, kudos to you and your awareness, intention, and willingness to foster friendships!  It's awesome and it WILL serve your life.  I promise!  Guard that commitment-- don't let others who are less aware steal it; don't let anyone saying no rob you of it; and certainly don't let apathy drain it from you.  What you know to be true: that friendships are worth the time, will benefit YOUR life.  Regardless of the outcome or of anyone's responses-- you know the truth and it will bless you.  Stay with it.

In fact it's your super power!  Not everyone knows they have it.  You're lucky you do.  SO many women are lonely (and the busier she is often means the lonelier she can feel!) and they don't have the energy, know-how, or motivation to change it-- but you do!  The ability to initiate repeatedly is a super power that will ensure you build meaningful friendships.

What Won't Work

Let's just be clear that what you secretly hope for isn't going to work:

  • Their schedules aren't just going to open up.  If I could wave a magic wand for you, I would, but it doesn't work.  So we can't wait for them to "not be busy."
  • Just because you initiated last time doesn't mean it's their turn.  A thousand potential relationships die every day because someone believes this myth.
  • Taking their silence, their no's, or their forgetfulness personally will never lead to friendship.  And the good news is that in the early stages of friendship-- we don't need to take these as a sign that the person isn't good friend material. No one can make everyone a priority in their schedules.  As your time together (even if it's at your initiation every time) becomes more meaningful, so will it get easier for her to commit her time to it.
  • Resenting them for not "stepping up." You're not initiating for their sake, but for yours! It's not a gift to them, but to yourself! So you don't ever need to resent them for not reciprocating-- this is your goal and need so you just keep leaning into friendships... and you will get what you crave.
  • Focusing all your energy on 1-2 people isn't enough.  Cast a net, not a fishing line, and be open to who might surprise you as a great friend down the road!

    Shasta and her friends

Ideas to Try for Building Friendships with Busy People

Instead of hand picking a couple of people and casually asking them to do something "sometime" and then hoping that *poof* a friendship will develop from that-- what we need to do is try everything and anything that will help us connect with as many women so we can eventually see who is responding with their occasional yes:

  • Extend an invitation to everyone you know for a standing girls night every Tuesday and be happier with the few who show up each week than disappointed with the many who don't.  But keep inviting the whole group each week (and tell them to bring a friend with them if you want more there!) and you'll see that those who show up most often will feel most close by Christmas!
  • Start a 4-week book club (long enough commitment to develop some friendships, but short enough for no one to feel stuck) as the excuse to gather everyone together. (My first book has a free 4-week guide, is written to help the group get to know each other, and has the extra bonus of reminding everyone how important consistent time is together!)
  • Ask for a commitment from a friend who says no. If she can't make the time we suggest, then follow it up with a "When works best for you?  Give me a date or two and I'll do everything I can on my end to make it work." Don't let the ball drop.
  • Build a relationship with unscheduled time. She's too busy to commit? Then just make a note to randomly call her every so often-- call her the first time with a follow-up reason: "Just wanted to call you real quick and hear how x went!" Another time call her "I'm just on my lunch break so only have a few minutes but was thinking of you and wanted to just catch up and hear how x is going!" Another time: "Hi! Hopefully this will just take a few moments but I had a question for you..."  Keep the calls short, ask a specific question to get the conversation started, and let her know you're thinking of her.  This does facilitate bonding and can ultimately make get-togethers more meaningful.
  • Try for spontaneous.  I've found that a lot of my friends feel overwhelmed with their schedule when they are looking at their calendars a week or two out, but that my odds go up if I am willing to try for day-of opportunities every so often. Text her-- "Hey any chance you're up for a 30 minute walk after work tonight?  I'm feeling the need for some fresh air and friendship!"  Or, "Hey, I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow near your office-- any chance we can sneak away for a bite to eat before or after my appointment?"  Or, "I know this is so last-minute... but just thought I'd try to see if there was any chance we could just stick our kids in front of a movie tonight for 45 minutes while we drink wine in the kitchen? Ha! You in?"
  • Invite on social media.  We may not want to post "I need friends.  Help!" but we can certainly post to our local friends: "I want to do x next week, anyone up for joining me?" Or "I'm tired of my walking route and am looking for someone who will take me on theirs! Ha! I'll drive to you!" Or "I'm thinking of having a decorating cookie party this holiday season-- who wants to come?" This helps expose you to possible friends who may not be on your radar, helps you see who might make the time, and shows you as an open and fun person who values friendships and enjoys life.

Do you see the patterns in those ideas?  Initiation With Many + Repeat As Often As Possible, with a Sprinkle of Fun and Lightheartedness = You Soon Having Friends.

The more we can call you "Making the Time" the sooner we can call you "The Girl With Healthy Friendships!"

Good luck, much love, and thank you for being a woman who prioritizes friendship!

Shasta

Update on 11/5: For more on this subject, in part inspired by some of the comments from this post, see the follow-up post: "If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more..."